Thoughts on CRM Design and converting user requirements to CRM solutions

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should – Hosk

I was working on a CRM 2013 project and then a CRM 2011 urgent bug came in and I had to open up CRM 2011 to investigate the problem, s I opened up CRM 2011 and navigated to the system settings I was struck how easily and quickly I could navigate to system settings in CRM 2011 compared to CRM 2013.

CRM 2011 was about a second quicker but the user experience is CRM 2013 seems more frustrating as you wait for menu’s to drop down and then have to scroll right to get to admin.

CRM 2013 looks better than CRM 2011 and selling it to potential customers is easier.

The other point I notice about CRM 2013 navigation was how much more thinking I had to do when using it, you have to be precise with the top menus and if you lose concentration the menu hides itself which causes extreme frustration to users.

CRM 2011 had the propensity to pop up lots of windows, each link you clicked opened a new window, which sometimes led to you have loads of IE windows.  There are two ways to look at this behaviour

  • A problem
  • A benefit

With my CRM developers hat on, I liked the ability to have multiple windows open and find CRM 2013’s one window behaviour very frustrating.  Developers like multiple monitors and multiple pages of CRM open at the same time.

The problem with lots of CRM 2011 windows poping up is it was sometimes difficult to find the window you wanted but if you turned on tabs then I found this manageable.

I’m not sure users like multiple windows and if we assume CRM developers are power users, who like to have lots of advanced finds and windows open, we have to consider this might not be the way end users use the system but it would be nice to have the option of having windows pop rather than one window functionality.

I assume the one windows and navigation is tangled in with Microsoft’s windows 8/everything is a tablet view of the world.

CRM 2013 and CRM 2015 go down the one window policy.  The one window functionality makes navigating CRM confusing because I find myself asking questions

  • How do I get back to my previous page
  • What should I click
  • What was my previous page
  • How do I jump to System Settings

Causing the user to think to much when navigating is often caused by poor design

Good CRM design should not make users think

After reading the excellent book  Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, this book made me change the way I view CRM form design and I would recommend all CRM developers to read this.

Users thinking about navigating is a good summary of why I find CRM 2013 navigation difficult.

CRM 2013 made finding the advanced find difficult, which is particuarly frustrating for CRM developers who love the advanced find – Why the advanced find is a CRM Developers best friend

How did the CRM 2013 design come about

I have often wondered how Microsoft came up with the CRM 2013 navigation that was obviously slower and more difficult to use.

CRM 2013 design would be great for tablets but how many users use tablets/phones with CRM 2013/2015 and tablets/phones have their own app so why does the core CRM navigation need to change.

consider the CRM 2013 navigation and what it does well

  • It looks great
  • It makes the most use of space (by hiding menu options)

The two features above come at a cost

  • Frustrating and difficult to use
  • slower to navigate

I imagine most people use Microsoft Dynamics CRM on a desktop/Laptop with a monitor so space on the CRM form might not be the highest priority but ease of use and speed are certainly something all users would value.

There are no easy choices when designing, CRM developers often have to make choices when designing forms.  To increase loading speed you need to hide grids and some data on the form load and you need to find the right balance between information and performance.

CRM 2015 SP 1 – Onwards and upwards

I used CRM 2015 SP1 last week with a new CRM 30 day trial and the new navigation improvements are fantastic.  My personal opinion is this what the navigation should have been like in CRM 2013 SP1.  The current navigation feels as fast and intuitive as CRM 2011 but looks better.

CRM 2015 new nav

This type of navigation can created in CRM 2013 by using this

The new CRM 2015 navigation reminds me of this great CRM 2013 tool One Click navigation which I reviewed on my blog

If you are using CRM 2013 this blog has a great collection of bookmarklets to allow you to quickly jump to certain areas in CRM.

Great collection of bookmarklets

I like the get Guid bookmarklet and the bookmarklet which makes all fields readonly (already this has saved me a bunch of time).  These bookmarklets will work with CRM 2015 as well

Converting requirements to CRM solutions

The CRM 2013 menu design is a good warning to all CRM developers, all the choices we make creating a CRM solution have benefits and drawbacks, finding the correct mix to suit your customers requirements is difficult skill.

As a CRM developer you will often need to translate the user requirements into a technical CRM solution, this needs you to have an open dialogue  with the end user about the drawbacks of certain customizations and how this fits in with tasks they need to do in their job.

CRM developers need to user their experience to advise the end users and there may be some situations when you need to tell the users their idea is not a great idea (in a nice way of course)

I have seen CRM solutions where users insisted on something being done in an completely inefficient/daft way, only for all the customizations to be removed later when performance was terrible.  Creating CRM solutions is a partnership between users and CRM developers which work best when both sides are contributing rather than one side dictating.


I worked on a CRM project where the new CRM solution was slower and took more clicks than the old software it was replacing.

I wondered how it had got to this stage, how was a slower system created.

Possible Reasons

  • The business analyst focused on what information should be collected
  • The business asked for more information to be collected
  • Little thought to automation

The system was tested and proven to work OK in the test environment but when it was put live with time constraints the system proved to be slower and was effecting the output.

The CRM solution had to be optimized and workflows, plugins and javascript was used to automatically set fields where appropriate but the change in working practices and extra data needed to be input was a manual interaction which couldn’t be worked around.

The extra data being captured came with a time cost



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